Welcome back to this week’s installment of The Way of Kings reread here on Tor.com! I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving break. I know I did. Also, be sure to check out Carl’s latest installment to The Stormlight Grimoire on becoming a Windrunner. He’s doing an amazing job getting into many facets of Roshar we’re most interested in.
As we near the last handful of chapters in Part Three of The Way of Kings things are really ramping up. Last week we went on a bit of a windride with Kaladin as he had his first storm vision. This week we take a step back to a scene we’re already familiar with, but from a different perspective. Chapter 47: Stormblessings covers the day that is perhaps Kaladin’s second greatest shame. The first being his loss of Tien, which he even reflects on during the course of Stormblessings, but what we finally see is how exactly Kaladin turned down what everyone else in Alethi society would considered the greatest honor: winning a Shardblade and Shardplate.
Now let’s take our trip in the Stormlight Not So Way Back Machine…
Chapter 47: Stormblessings
Setting: Amaram’s camp near a battlefield somewhere along the borders of Alethkar, One Year Ago
Point of View: Kaladin
What Happens: It is now four years after Kaladin first volunteered to join Amaram’s army. Kaladin’s enlistment is up in a few weeks, but he decides to stay with the army; he expects to never go home since he broke his “promise to protect Tien” and can’t face his parents now. Kaladin has risen in the ranks and is now the youngest squadleader in Amaram’s camp. As a darkeyes, in order to be raised higher he must go to the Shattered Plains to further distinguish himself.
Gare, another squadleader approaches Kaladin. Gare seems annoyed that he has to talk to Kaladin, given a battle is about to start. Kaladin wants Cenn, who is currently assigned to Gare’s squad, transferred to his own group. Gare doesn’t want to do it and questions why Kaladin wants all of the untrained young recruits, since they wouldn’t help his squad. Kaladin calls his bluff and tells Gare to accept the payment like everyone else and send Cenn over. Kaladin drops a pouch of spheres on the ground. As he walked away he hears Gare say “can’t blame a man for trying.”
Kaladin passes through the busy camp as soldiers are running to and fro, attending to duties and lining up for their squads. Kaladin walks to the surgeon’s station intending to leave a bribe with Ven, the chief of surgeons, to ensure his men are treated first if any of his squad took injuries in the coming battle. The pouch of spheres sticks to him oddly, but he blames a windspren nearby. The pouch eventually comes free and he tosses it to Ven and walks to his squad where his second in command, Dallet, has them waiting. Standing beside Dallet is the new recruit Cenn, who looks eerily like Tien.
Kaladin’s thoughts turn to the Shattered Plains where “real soldiers” fought for a purpose better than these border squabbles he has fought for the last four years. Kaladin wants to get his team to the Shattered Plains as they’d have to fight in fewer, more important battles and he feels it would be safer for them there. Soon the horns blare and Kaladin and his squad rush in.
Kaladin finds himself in the thick of battle. As he looks around, he spots all of his men except for the young Cenn, who Kaladin at first mistakenly refers to as Tien to himself. Kaladin finally spots Cenn far out of formation and surrounded by the enemy. He races over and blocks a spear that would have surely been the end of Cenn. Kaladin quickly goes on the offensive, pushing all of the men back; he found himself invincible at moments like this, flowing easily from one position to the next as he defended someone. Kaladin feels a wind around him as he settles into a defensive stance. He examines Cenn and bandages his leg. Soon the rest of his squad finishes off the remaining nearby enemy troops and form a circle around Kaladin as he works on Cenn’s leg.
When Kaladin finishes, he orders Cyn and Korater to take Cenn to the surgeon. They should be fine here for the moment as Amaran’s forces were concentrated to this area. Cenn thought he saw a Shardbearer, but Dallet corrects him that it was only a well-armored lighteyes officer.
Kaladin becomes focused on taking the lighteyes officer down. Internally, he feels that that lighteyes represented Roshone and all the other lighteyes, save the few honorable ones like Amaram and Dalinar. All other petty lighteyes were responsible for all the troubles in their warring society and ultimately the death of Kaladin’s brother Tien.
Two subsquads head out with Kaladin, eager to fight. One subsquad draws the attention of the honor guard while the other distracts the lighteyes as Kaladin approached from behind. Kaladin gets a knife into the brightlord’s eye and then finishes him off with his spear easily.
Kaladin surveys the area and orders his squad to hold position. He’s about to call for the surgeons and for the captainlord to confirm their kill of a brightlord when he hears a commotion and sees that a true Shardbearer is on the field. The Shardbearer’s armor is gold and he wields a Shardblade shaped like flames. The Shardbearer breaks Amaram’s lines, tramples Cenn, cuts off Dallet’s head, and cuts down even more of Kaladin’s squad.
Kaladin rushes to his fallen men. Cenn is still alive, but dies soon after saying something about a black piper in the night. What’s left of the squad circles around Kaladin again. Kaladin looks up and sees that the Shardbearer headed through them to get at Amaram as directly as possible. He runs towards the Shardbearer with his men close on his heels. As Kaladin approaches, he sees that Amaram’s honor guard fled, as did most of the other soldiers.
The Shardbearer slices through Amaram’s mount, which then falls with Amaram in tow. The Shardbearer dismounts his own horse and is about to finish off Amaram when Kaladin hits his leg, causing the Shardbearer to stumble and split Kaladin’s spear. Ten of his squad team surrounds the Shardbearer, but their hits are ineffective against the Shardplate; with a few quick cuts the Shardbearer kills them all. The Shardbearer then attacks other members of the squad who are standing nearby. Incensed, Kaladin screams and attacks the Shardbearer. Kaladin avoids the Shardblade, but just barely. He backs up and sees Amaram dragging himself away.
Kaladin charges again only to have the head of his spear sliced off by the Shardblade. Kaladin then throws a knife towards the slit of the Shardbearer’s faceplate but misses by a fraction. Kaladin sees a flash and grabs the falling spearhead out of the air; he spins and slams the spearhead into the Shardbearer’s face though the visor. The Shardbearer falls over and drops his Shardblade to the ground. Amaram confirms that the Shardbearer is truly dead, since the sword did not evaporate into mist. Kaladin killed a Shardbearer!
The Shardblade rests stabbed into the ground. Coreb, one of Kaladin’s few remaining squadmates tells him to take it, but Kaladin refuses. Kaladin can’t take up the sword for fear of changing into a lighteyes—something he despises deeply. He also can’t justify taking up the blade that had killed so many of his friends, and so many others in the past.
Amaram is aghast that Kaladin doesn’t take the blade. Kaladin simply says, “I don’t want it. I’m giving it to my men,” then walks away.
Quote of the Chapter:
Kaladin stepped forward, dazed, raising his hand toward the hilt of the Blade. He hesitated just an inch away from it.
Everything felt wrong.
If he took that Blade, he’d become one of them. His eyes would even change, if the stories were right. Though the Blade glistened in the light, clean of the murders it had performed, for a moment it seemed red to him. Stained with Dallet’s blood. Toorim’s blood. The blood of the men who had been alive just moments before.
I certainly wouldn’t want the weapon that killed my friends, but the power is so tempting in the heat of battle few have probably ever thought of the implications Kaladin is focused on. By picking up that blade Kaladin would have changed wholly and according to Syl maybe his very soul would have been tainted.
And we’ve come nearly full circle. This is the same battle that we saw from Cenn’s point of view in the very first regular chapter. If Kaladin’s experiences with Roshone growing up weren’t enough for him to dislike lighteyes forever, well this chapter cemented it. Kaladin makes his distrust of lighteyes in general pretty apparently throughout the chapter, but besides Roshone it is all about how they act superior and not honorable except for Kaladin’s precious Amaram.
As the battle continues Kaladin witnesses a Shardblade in action for the first time. He sees exactly what havoc and death is so offhandedly committed by them and is horrified to his core. His well trained team was decimated with a few quick strokes. And when the opportunity came for Kaladin to pick-up the blade that he earned he turns his back on it. He can’t take becoming not only a lighteyes, but someone who has such disregard for the lives of others. Kaladin now simply sees Shardbearers as butchers with pretty eyes. Kaladin’s dislike of lighteyes becomes outright hatred by the end this day though that incident is still to come in an upcoming chapter.
Since joining Amaram’s army Kaladin has been destined to live the ideals of the Knight Radiant. If only he had learned the important words sooner or if only Syl came into her own quicker Kaladin’s destiny might have been a bit less harsh.
Syl up to her old tricks. She was even less circumspect than I remember. A few thoughts came up in regards to Syl that bear closer examination. Firstly, was Syl’s early trick in the chapter with the bag of spheres meant more to help Kaladin keep infused sphere nears by for him to draw upon during battle or just her playing around? I like to think it was very deliberate on her part, even if she didn’t realize why she was doing it at the time. Near the end of the battle with the Shardbearer Kaladin is clearly on the cusp of becoming a Windrunner. He’s only missing the words though he feels them in his heart.
The other key thing that I think involved Syl is the miraculous spearhead catch by Kaladin. Though when in the thick of a battle scene Sanderson’s writing is clear the timing of the action is always swift and Kaladin moves very fluidly from one stance/action to the next that it is possible the spearhead stayed aloft all its own while he took the time to throw a knife it seems very doubtful. The wording also suggest this spearhead wasn’t merely taking its sweet time falling to the ground after being chopped off, but that Syl herself intervened. The “Something flashed in the air beside him” line is the cincher for me. Syl does love to get flashy sometimes.
Kaladin truly is a risk taker and this has only grown in his time as a soldier. Even back then Kaladin was too smart and he thought too much for a spearman though his superiors were able to overlook it at the time due to his abilities with a spear. Kaladin even went so far as to break—not bend—rules as he saw fit to help his men. Bribes are definitely not free and he was quick to spread them around camp for weak recruits and to ensure his men were first in line behind the lighteyes when a medic is needed.
Speaking of needing a medic Cenn had a very interesting death quote:
Cenn stopped wheezing. He convulsed once, eyes still open. “He watches!” the boy hissed. “The black piper in the night. He holds us in his palm… playing a tune that no man can hear!”
A reference perhaps to Odium playing a song that changes the Parshmen into Parshendi perhaps? Hopefully, time will reveal all.
Tune in next week when Carl will be covering the next Shallan chapter.
Michael Pye (aka The Mad Hatter) runs The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review where he shares his views on genre books. He can also be found nattering on Twitter or in search of the perfect piece of bacon. He is currently working on an anthology project and is hoping to find a good publishing home for it soon.